Prevention better than the cure
Oral hygiene is the practice of keeping one’s mouth clean and free of disease and other problems (e.g. bad breath) by regular brushing of the teeth and cleaning between the teeth.
It is important that oral hygiene be carried out on a regular basis to enable prevention of dental disease and bad breath. The most common types of dental disease are tooth decay (cavities, dental caries) and gum diseases, including gingivitis, and periodontitis.
Prevention is better than the cure and following the guidelines below will hopefully prevent the necessity for a dental tourism trip to Poland.
General guidelines suggest brushing twice a day: after breakfast and before going to bed, but ideally the mouth should be cleaned after every meal. Cleaning between the teeth is called interdental cleaning and is as important as tooth brushing. This is because a toothbrush cannot reach between the teeth and therefore only removes about 50% of plaque off the surface. There are many tools to clean between the teeth, including floss and interdental brushes; it is up to each individual to choose which tool he or she prefers to use.
Sometimes white or straight teeth are associated with oral hygiene, but a hygienic mouth may have stained teeth and/or crooked teeth. For appearance reasons, people may seek out teeth whitening and orthodontics.
Tooth cleaning and decay
Tooth decay is the most common global disease. Over 80% of cavities occur inside fissures in teeth where brushing cannot reach food left trapped after eating and saliva and fluoride have no access to neutralize acid and remineralise demineralised teeth, unlike easy-to-clean parts of the tooth, where fewer cavities occur.
Teeth cleaning is the removal of dental plaque and tartar from teeth to prevent cavities, gingivitis, gum disease, and tooth decay. Severe gum disease causes at least one-third of adult tooth loss.
Dental sealants, which are applied by dentists, cover and protect fissures and grooves in the chewing surfaces of back teeth, preventing food from becoming trapped and thereby halt the decay process. An elastomer strip has been shown to force sealant deeper inside opposing chewing surfaces and can also force fluoride toothpaste inside chewing surfaces to aid in remineralising demineralised teeth.
Between cleanings by a dental hygienist, good oral hygiene is essential for preventing tartar build-up which causes the problems mentioned above. This is done through careful, frequent brushing with a toothbrush, combined with the use of dental floss or interdental brushes to prevent accumulation of plaque on the teeth. Powered toothbrushes reduce dental plaque and gingivitis more than manual tooth brushing in both short and long term.
Sources of problems
Dental plaque – also known as dental biofilm, is a sticky, yellow film consisting of a wide range of bacteria which attaches to the tooth surfaces and can be visible around the gum line. It starts to reappear after the tooth surface has been cleaned, which is why regular brushing is encouraged. A high-sugar diet encourages the formation of plaque. Sugar (fermentable carbohydrates), is converted into acid by the plaque. The acid then causes the breakdown of the adjacent tooth, eventually leading to tooth decay.
If plaque is left on a subgingival (under the gum) surface undisturbed, not only is there an increased risk of tooth decay, but it will also go on to irritate the gums and make them appear red and swollen. Some bleeding may be noticed during tooth brushing or flossing. These are the signs of inflammation which indicate poor gum health (gingivitis).
The longer that plaque stays on the tooth surface, the harder and more attached to the tooth it becomes. That is when it is referred to as calculus and needs to be removed by a dental professional. If this is not treated, the inflammation will lead to the bone loss and will eventually lead to the affected teeth becoming loose.
Routine tooth brushing is the principal method of preventing many oral diseases, and perhaps the most important activity an individual can practice to reduce plaque build-up. Controlling plaque reduces the risk of the individual suffering from plaque-associated diseases such as gingivitis, periodontitis, and caries – the three most common oral diseases.
The average brushing time for individuals is between 30 seconds and just over 60 seconds. Many oral health care professionals agree that tooth brushing should be done for a minimum of two minutes, and be practiced at least twice a day. Brushing for at least two minutes per session is optimal for preventing the most common oral diseases, and removes considerably more plaque than brushing for only 45 seconds.
Toothpaste with fluoride is an important tool to readily use when tooth brushing. The fluoride in the dentifrice is an important protective factor against caries, and an important supplement needed to remineralise already affected enamel.
Tooth brushing alone will not remove plaque from all surfaces of the tooth as 40% of the surfaces are interdental.
One technique that can be used to access these areas is dental floss. When the proper technique is used, flossing can remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and below the gums.
Interdental brushes come in a range of color-coded sizes. They consist of a handle with a piece of wire covered in tapered bristles, designed to be placed into the interdental space for plaque removal.
Studies indicate that interdental brushes are equally or more effective then floss when removing plaque and reducing gum inflammation.